If you don’t know too much about cars or how the speaker system in them works, you might be feeling a bit lost when it comes to getting an upgrade. Although it may be a topic that seems strange to you, it is quite simple once you understand it. There are many different types of speaker systems, but instead of seeing this as intimidating and overwhelming, consider it a luxury that will allow you to choose from many options and you will be able to find the perfect fit for you and what you are looking for.
One problem that you will likely come face to face when doing your research is the debate surrounding whether you should get a 2-way or 3-way speaker system. And what does that mean?
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Some of the basics
Just to cover some of the basics to help you understand, inside a speaker box you will find a part or two called drivers which we will refer to in the next few paragraphs. These are the parts that vibrate when sound comes through them.
Sounds have high frequencies, low frequencies, and lots in between. These different drivers are made to deal with different frequency ranges. This is not a single driver that can handle all the frequencies that the human ear can, so speakers tend to have 2 or more to handle the different sound frequencies.
The main types of drivers used are woofers, tweeters, and midrange drivers. The woofers handle low-frequency sounds, the tweeters handle high-frequency sounds, and the mid-range drivers handle exactly that: everything in between. Then something called a crossover is used to divide the original sounds into two or three different signals and send the different frequencies to their correct controller.
2-way vs. 3-way speaker system
Well, here we will try to explain the 2- or 3-way speaker system debate in non-technical terms. People simply use 2 or 3-way as a way to distinguish between different car speaker systems based on how many drivers they have.
If a speaker system has more than one driver, the input sound signals are split into different frequencies, with high-frequency signals going to the tweeter and low-frequency signals going to the woofer. Therefore, a two-way loudspeaker has its sound signals divided in two different ways and in a three-way loudspeaker it is divided in three different ways. This is a very simple and easy way to classify different types of speaker designs.
2-way vs. 3-way in coaxial
In a basic 2-way coaxial car speaker, there will be a large woofer and a small tweeter inside the box. Sometimes there may be a woofer with a few small tweeters. This configuration is most popular on coaxial systems, with the woofer and tweeter in the same box.
Sometimes you can have three drivers in one, but also, but usually a 3-way coaxial system (also known as a triaxial system), you have an additional part known as a midrange driver or sometimes a super tweeter that is in the woofer.
The downside to this type of system is that a coax uses a passive crossover inside the box and works best when it is only split into two: high frequency and low frequency. If you then add a midrange driver or super tweeter to the mix, the crossover doesn’t perform well.
It is for this reason that on a coaxial, we recommend sticking with a 2-way system to get the best sound quality.
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2-way vs. 3-way system in components
The audio system in a car with 2-way components will be slightly different in that it will have one set of woofers and one set of tweeters, but they will be in two separate boxes. No matter how many pairs of tweeters or woofers you have, this is still a 2-way system.
If you start adding external crossovers to the audio system this will improve the quality of the components working together and in terms of a 3-way system you benefit from this addition. The midrange here will be more accurate and give you the ability to create a much better audio experience.
Therefore, if you use high-quality components, a 3-way system is typically rated better than a 2-way system with respect to the overall sound quality of audio systems.